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POETRY OF PROTEST                         153

one oŁ Su's close friends, Prince Wang Shien, who was married to the
Emperor's sister. At a time when verse was the popular form of com-
jpaunication of ideas, two clever lines of verse made better "quotes"
than a windy memorandum. And Su Tungpo was enormously
'popular; his verse was repeated at scholars' parties. The day was
coming when it was no longer possible to ignore Su Tungpo's voice.

In September 1074 his term of office at Hangchow was up. His
brother was now serving only as a secretary at Tsichow, modern
Tsinan, in Shantung province, and Tungpo had begged to be trans-
ferred to that province. His wish was granted, and this time he was
appointed chief magistrate of Michow, which is near Tsingtao. He
served at Michow only for two years, then was again appointed a chief
^magistrate, of Suchow, where he served from April 1077 to March
^079.

After saying good-bye to his friends in the monasteries on the
northern and southern hills of Hangchow, Su started with his family
on the way north. His wife had bought a .very intelligent maid of
twelve, by the name of Chaoyun, who was to become most important
in, the life of Su Tungpo.

Michow was a very poor district, growing principally hemp, dates,
and mulberries, and the life here offered a striking contrast to that of
JHangchow. The officials* salaries had been cut at this time, and in his
preface to a descriptive poem, "Medlar and Chrysanthemum", Su
Tungpo said: "After being in the service for nineteen years, I am
becoming poorer every day and can no longer live as I used to. When
I came over to be magistrate of Kiaochow, I thought at least that I
would not have to starve, but the pantry is bare, and we have to live
frugally. I often go out with a fellow magistrate, Liu Tingshih, along
the ancient city walls, and pick the medlar and the chrysanthemum
in the abandoned gardens and eat them. Then we feel our bellies and
laugh."

With Wang Anshih out of office, Huiching was now in power and a
new income tax was instituted. The allocation of the draft exemption
tax was far beyond the ability of the people of the district to pay.
Children were dying on the roadsides. One lifie in a poem Su wrote
at this period spoke of his "going along the city wall with tears in my
eyes" to bury the exposed corpses. In a letter he wrote years later, he
mentioned the fact that he was able to save thirty or forty starving
orphans and put them in homes.

It was a period when Su Tungpo was feeling sad and despondent,
and, strange to say, it was when the poet was saddest that he wrote his
best poems. That is, judged by Chinese standards, it was in this period
that he reached complete maturity as a poet. The anger and the bitter-